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Schindler's List

Schindler's List

4.1 49
by Thomas Keneally

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The acclaimed bestselling classic of Holocaust literature, winner of the Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, and the inspiration for the classic film—“a masterful account of the growth of the human soul” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).

A stunning novel based on the true story of how German war profiteer and


The acclaimed bestselling classic of Holocaust literature, winner of the Booker Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Fiction, and the inspiration for the classic film—“a masterful account of the growth of the human soul” (Los Angeles Times Book Review).

A stunning novel based on the true story of how German war profiteer and factory director Oskar Schindler came to save more Jews from the gas chambers than any other single person during World War II. In this milestone of Holocaust literature, Thomas Keneally, author of Daughter of Mars, uses the actual testimony of the Schindlerjuden—Schindler’s Jews—to brilliantly portray the courage and cunning of a good man in the midst of unspeakable evil.

Editorial Reviews

Paul Zweig
There is a mystery here, and Mr. Keneally is too good a writer to try to explain it. He leaves us with the remarkable story of a man who saved lives when every sinew of civilization was devoted to destroying them. -- New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A mesmerizing novel based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German industralist who saved and succored more than 1000 Jews from the Nazis at enormous financial and emotional expense. (June)
Library Journal
How the German Oskar Schindler came to save more than one thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust is one of the most fascinating stories of the century. Although millions are now learning about Schindler through Steven Spielberg's recent Academy AwardR-winning film, his achievement first gained prominence with Keneally's 1982 ``facticious'' novel (which is also the basis for the film). Keneally's account is less melodramatic than the motion picture, and although he does not fully explain how a hedonistic German could have been so altered by the plight of the Jewish workers in his factory, he does make Schindler less enigmatic than the big-screen version. Ben Kingsley, one of the film's stars, reads in a calculatedly matter-of-fact tone, letting the story's power alone convey its complicated emotions. Highly recommended.-Michael Adams, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ. Lib., Madison, N.J.
New York Review of Books
"An extraordinary tale...no summary can adequately convey the strategems and reverses and sudden twists of fortune...A notable achievement."
"An astounding story...in this case the truth is far more powerful than anything the imagination could invent."
Simon Wiesenthal
"A truly heroic story of the war and, like the tree planted in Oskar Schindler's honor in Jerusalem, a fitting memorial to the fight of one individual against the horror of Nazism."
From the Publisher
New York Review of Books An extraordinary tale...no summary can adequately convey the strategems and reverses and sudden twists of fortune...A notable achievement.

Simon Wiesenthal A truly heroic story of the war and, like the tree planted in Oskar Schindler's honor in Jerusalem, a fitting memorial to the fight of one individual against the horror of Nazism.

Newsweek An astounding story...in this case the truth is far more powerful than anything the imagination could invent.

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From Chapter One

General Sigmund List's 5 armored divisions, driving north from the Sudetenland, had taken the sweet south Polish jewel of Cracow from both flanks on September 6, 1939. And it was in their wake that Oskar Schindler entered the city which, for the next five years, would be his oyster. Though within the month he would show that he was disaffected from National Socialism, he could still see that Cracow, with its railroad junction and its as yet modest industries, would be a boomtown of the new regime. He wasn't going to be a salesman anymore. Now he was going to be a tycoon.

It is not immediately easy to find in Oskar's family's history the origins of his impulse toward rescue. He was born on April 28, 1908, into the Austrian Empire of Franz Josef, into the hilly Moravian province of that ancient Austrian realm. His hometown was the industrial city of Zwittau, to which some commercial opening had brought the Schindler ancestors from Vienna at the beginning of the sixteenth century.

Herr Hans Schindler, Oskar's father, approved of the imperial arrangement, considered himself culturally an Austrian, and spoke German at the table, on the telephone, in business, in moments of tenderness. Yet when in 1918 Herr Schindler and the members of his family found themselves citizens of the Czechoslovak republic of Masaryk and Benes, it did not seem to cause any fundamental distress to the father, and even less still to his ten-year-old son. The child Hitler, according to the man Hitler, was tormented even as a boy by the gulf between the mystical unity of Austria and Germany and their political separation. No such neurosis of disinheritance soured Oskar Schindler's childhood. Czechoslovakia was such a bosky, unravished little dumpling of a republic that the German-speakers took their minority stature with some grace, even if the Depression and some minor governmental follies would later put a certain strain on the relationship. Zwittau, Oskar's hometown, was a small, coal-dusted city in the southern reaches of the mountain range known as the Jeseniks. Its surrounding hills stood partly ravaged by industry and partly forested with larch and spruce and fir. Because of its community of German-speaking Sudetendeutschen, it maintained a German grammar school, which Oskar attended. There he took the Real-gymnasium Course which was meant to produce engineers—mining, mechanical, civil—to suit the area's industrial landscape. Herr Schindler himself owned a farm-machinery plant, and Oskar's education was a preparation for this inheritance.

The family Schindler was Catholic. So too was the family of young Amon Goeth, by this time also completing the Science Course and sitting for the Matura examinations in Vienna.

Oskar's mother, Louisa, practiced her faith with energy, her clothes redolent all Sunday of the incense burned in clouds at High Mass in the Church of St. Maurice. Hans Schindler was the sort of husband who drives a woman to religion. He liked cognac; he liked coffeehouses. A redolence of brandy-warm breath, good tobacco, and confirmed earthiness came from the direction of that good monarchist, Mr. Hans Schindler.

The family lived in a modern villa, set in its own gardens, across the city from the industrial section. There were two children, Oskar and his sister, Elfriede. But there are not witnesses left to the dynamics of that household, except in the most general terms. We know, for example, that it distressed Frau Schindler that her son, like his father, was a negligent Catholic.

But it cannot have been too bitter a household. From the little that Oskar would say of his childhood, there was no darkness there. Sunlight shines among the fir trees in the garden. There are ripe plums in the corner of those early summers. If he spends a part of some June morning at Mass, he does not bring back to the villa much of a sense of sin. He runs his father's car out into the sun in front of the garage and begins tinkering inside its motor. Or else he sits on a side step of the house, filing away at the carburetor of the motorcycle he is building.

Oskar had a few middle-class Jewish friends, whose parents also sent them to the German grammar school. These children were not village Ashkenazim—quirky, Yiddish-speaking, Orthodox—but multilingual and not-so-ritual sons of Jewish businessmen. Across the Hana Plain and in the Beskidy Hills, Sigmund Freud had been born of just such a Jewish family, and that not so long before Hans Schindler himself was born to solid German stock in Zwittau.

Oskar's later history seems to call out for some set piece in his childhood. The young Oskar should defend some bullied Jewish boy on the way home from school. It is a safe bet it didn't happen, and we are happier not knowing, since the event would seem too pat. Besides, one Jewish child saved from a bloody nose proves nothing. For Himmler himself would complain, in a speech to one of his Einsatzgruppen, that every German had a Jewish friend. " 'The Jewish people are'going to be annihilated,' says every Party member. 'Sure, it's in our program: elimination of the Jews, annihilation—we'll take care of it.' And then they all come trudging, eighty million worthy Germans, and each one has his one decent Jew. Sure, the others are swine, but this one is an A-One Jew."

Trying still to find, in the shadow of Himmler, some hint of Oskar's later enthusiasms, we encounter the Schindlers' next-door neighbor, a liberal rabbi named Dr. Felix Kantor. Rabbi Kantor was a disciple of Abraham Geiger, the German liberalizer of Judaism who claimed that it was no crime, in fact was praiseworthy, to be a German as well as a Jew. Rabbi Kantor was no rigid village scholar. He dressed in the modern mode and spoke German in the house. He called his place of worship a "temple" and not by that older name, "synagogue." His temple was attended by Jewish doctors, engineers, and proprietors of textile mills in Zwittau. When they traveled, they told other businessmen, "Our rabbi is Dr. Kantor—he writes articles not only for the Jewish journals in Prague and Brno, but for the dailies as well."

Rabbi Kantor's two sons went to the same school as the son of his German neighbor Schindler. Both boys were bright enough eventually, perhaps, to become two of the rare Jewish professors at the German University of Prague. These crew-cut German speaking prodigies raced in knee pants around the summer gardens. Chasing the Schindler children and being chased. And Kantor, watching them flash in and out among the yew hedges, might have thought it was all working as Geiger and Graetz and Lazarus and all those other nineteenth-century German-Jewish liberals had predicted. We lead enlightened lives, we are greeted by German neighbors—Mr. Schindler will even make snide remarks about Czech statesmen in our hearing. We are secular scholars as well as sensible interpreters of the Talmud. We belong both to the twentieth century and to an ancient tribal race. We are neither offensive nor offended against. Later, in the mid-1930s, the rabbi would revise this happy estimation and make up his mind in the end that his sons could never buy off the National Socialists with a German-language Ph.D.—that there was no outcrop of twentieth-century technology or secular scholarship behind which a Jew could find sanctuary, any more than there could ever be a species of rabbi acceptable to the new German legislators. In 1936 all the Kantors moved to Belgium. The Schindlers never heard of them again.

Copyright © 1982 by Serpentine Publishing Co., PTY Ltd.

Meet the Author

Thomas Keneally was born in 1936 and raised in the rugged expanse of Australia. As a
young man, he planned to join the priesthood, but by 1960, on the verge of the Vietnam
War, Keneally found the church in such moral turmoil that he decided it was impossible
to go through with his ordination.

Keneally received his formal education in Sydney, Australia. Over the past 30 years, he
has published over 25 novels, more than a dozen screenplays, and several works of
non-fiction. These works include The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The Playmaker,
Season in Purgatory, A Family Madness
, and Woman of the Inner Sea. His work
has been nominated four times for the Booker Prize, which he won in 1982 for Schindler's
. He won the Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction, The Miles Franklin Award, The
Critics Circle Award, and a Logie (Australian Emmy).

A self-described "literary biker," Keneally has traveled through Australia, Iceland, Antarctica,
America, Eastern Europe, roaming across genres and topics, often championing the underdog.
"I'm a writer who's always been hard to pin down," Keneally says, "because I've sometimes
written about things that are none of my concern -- like the American South or Antarctica or
Australian aboriginals or the Holocaust. I think I appeal to 'hells angels' kind of writers."
Keneally has modeled many of his characters after the traditional Australian hero -- the
"battler." "In America everyone admires successful men and women. In Australia, they
suspect them. The Australian hero is the person to whom everything has happened --
drought, fire, flood."

Oskar Schindler is a classic Keneally character -- conflicted and flawed, the antithesis of a
one-dimensional altruistic saint. And Schindler's story is a classic Keneally story -- an
ordinary man placed in a situation of enormous moral dilemma.

While researching Schindler's List, the author spent two years traveling to eight countries, where he interviewed many of Schindler's Jews and read the numerous testimonies which
are held at the Martyrs and Heroes Remembrance Authority, Yad Vasbem, Israel.

Keneally lives in California where he teaches in the graduate writing program at the University of
California, Irvine, where he holds a Distinguished Professorship.

Reading Group Discussion Points

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Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-two novels since, most recently Shame and the Captives and the New York Times bestselling The Daughters of Mars. His novels include Schindler’s List, which won the Booker Prize in 1982, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates, all of which were shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He has also written several works of nonfiction, including his boyhood memoir Homebush Boy, The Commonwealth of Thieves, and Searching for Schindler. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney, Australia.

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Schindler's List 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 47 reviews.
LeandraCA More than 1 year ago
Seeing the movie first, I had an idea what the book would entail. Reading the book, would put image in my head from the film. There were some days that I couldnt read it because it was to intense. The book made me cry but also made me smile. This book is a must have for your permanent library for years and years. All should read this.
tory Nelson More than 1 year ago
Thomas Keneally has had a series of wonderful novels under his name but this has to be one of his best. Oskar Shindler starts out in the book as supporter of the Nazi party and an undercover agent for the Nazis to hold in their horrific plan to seize Poland. He is a smooth talker, a visionary, and a young entrepreneur by the start of the memorable World War II. By just getting an understanding of his background, you would never believe he would become a hero for not just the 1,100 Jews he saved, but for the rest of the world. Keneally does a great job showing the starting life of Shindler. We see his succession from the war and his transformation from a man who was doing fine making profits to someone who uses his fortune to open factors not just for his benefit. He supplies work and a sense of safety for Jew workers he hires. Previously having confirmations with Nazis and being arrested two times before, he is a warrior who finds a liking for danger. This story is not only about Shindler. We hear about the journeys of Jews in the ghettos and what occurs in the concentration camps. Some of the things you will hear can be disturbing but we all need to just be thankful that we didn’t have to go through this horrific time period. We hear stories from his friend like Itzhak Stern. We learn how important Shindler is to their lives. I loved this book because I see that guardian angels are real. Keneally shows this by providing us visual of Shindler looking after the Jews not just in the multi factors they went through but also at their ghetto. I wasn’t able to put down the book and I finished it within two weeks. Being the savior of 1,100 doesn’t seem to be much compared to the 6 million lives destroyed by the Nazis. 1,100 lives is a ton. He saved families and if you think about it, those people had off springs. His story still makes impacts on people and I’m glad he was honored by the Jewish world. Troy N.
BrandyGirl More than 1 year ago
I wanted to read this and just finished it. I thought I would really enjoy it after all of the great reviews surrounding it. It gave a very good history of Schindler and the people surrounding him but to me that was the problem. It read more like a history book to me than a story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an amazing account of one mans desire to help people who were singled out for their religious beliefs. Anyone who has ever been a history buff or not will find this book compelling and will have trouble putting it down.
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SayarpreetCougar More than 1 year ago
This book is about Oskar Schindler, a man who came into the metal-making business just to make money. Then, he turned around and used his wealth to extricate 1,200 Jews from death camps all around Poland. He did it because he contradicted with what the SS did to Jews. Schindler took Itzahk Stern¿s quote that ¿ He who saves a single life saves the world entire¿ and ran away with it. He put his own future at risk for the plethora of Jews he tried to save, so they could also have their own future. Oskar Schindler was not alone on this quest of saving Jews, as Julius Madritsch, fellow business tycoon of Schindler¿s would have undertaken this quest. If he believed that this scheme had a chance of being successful he would have added 3,000 more Jews to Schindler¿s 1,200 that they both would have saved. This book urges you to as the saying ¿ do unto others, as you would want due to you¿ like Oskar Schindler did with overwhelming charisma, grit, and fortitude. As other camps were serving meals that ranged from a meager 700-1,000 calories a day as Alexander Biberstein, a doctor who experienced a normal death camp and Schindler¿s pointed out; Schindler distributed meals that ascended 2,000 calories a day. He opened his heart to all Jews when many did not even classify them as human beings; he created labor camps called Emalia and Brinnlitz with his own hard earned money. He fulfilled the promise to his Jews that they would ¿ survive the war under my care¿. Schindler¿s List inspired me to stand up for what I believe in and not shy away from your goal when nothing is on your side.
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C_Gus More than 1 year ago
World War II was a dark time in German history, but there were the few Germans that silently fought against the oppression. One man who did such deeds was a businessman by the name of Herr Schindler. "Schindler's list", by Thomas Keneally, is about Herr Schindler and his story about how he saved thousands of Jewish prisoners from the Nazi concentration camps by telling them that they were used for cheap labor. This book was exciting to say the least. It was near impossible for me to put it down. The story was gripping, intense and emotional. Keneally did an unbelievably phenomenal job adding detail to everything, making it even more irresistible. This book is a must read for anyone who is looking for a book that will give them a good look at WWII. It was a remarkable book. The only large negative about the book is that it was slow in the very beginning. It took a while for me to get into it, but after the first couple of chapters, it really took off. The reason for this was that Keneally wanted to set up a lot of visuals, so most of the beginning was descriptions and other things of the nature; which makes for a slow start, but was necessary for the rest of the book. If you are a little on the squeamish side, then this book is probably not for you. It was a little graphic at some parts. If you are a WWII fan looking for an accurate and exciting book, then this is the one for you. It definitely will not disappoint anyone who can stomach it. "Schindler's List" was an amazing book, and the movie is just as intense. I would highly recommend the movie if you enjoyed the book. The next best WWII book that I have read would be "Night". That is another WWII book that really brings out what it truly was like during that time period.
Big-Gordy More than 1 year ago
This was a novel that I had been waiting to read for a long time because of my great interest in the WWII era of history and I must say that I was not disappointed. Mr. Keneally starts by using the best method an author can use, which is description. On page 13 he describes Schindler and a gift from him to a camp leader and party host, Amon Goeth, in doing so he gives you a very clear picture of Schlindler: ".a tall young man in an expensive overcoat, double-breasted dinner jacket beneath it and- in the lapel of the dinner jacket- a large ornamental gold-on-black-enamel Hakenkreuz (Swastika)." The description truly adds to the sheer greatness of this book and it presents itself in many forms throughout the book. Another example of Keneally's descriptive prowess lies in a paragraph on page 88 and continues on through page 89; "During those morning journeys across town, Oskar noticed the plan for the city trolleys was to go on rolling down Lwówska Street through the middle of the ghetto. All walls facing the trolley line were being bricked up by polish workmen, and where there had been open spaces, cement walls were raised. As well, the trolleys would have their doors closed as they entered again in the Umwelt, the Aryan world, at the corner of Lwówska and sw Kingi Street. Oskar knew people would catch that trolley anyhow. Doors closed, no stops, machine guns on walls-it wouldn't matter." That whole last paragraph shows how one of the most mundane tasks had been completely revamped in a negative way by the Third Reich because, as you could tell, the walls were being constructed to separate Aryans and Jews and the trolley had to be armed because of the turmoil of the whole situation. The last quote that I would like to present is not a piece of Keneally's description but it gives you a bit of insight on his much adored off-trailing ; "Pemper would one day become secretary to Oskar, but in the summer of '44 he worked with Amon." even though this doesn't seem too major, it happens throughout the whole book. There is a reason that this is a critically acclaimed work, and I had found it. The reason behind this books success is in Keneally's high quality writing and his use of masterful artistic techniques. In all reality, this book is one huge use of pathos in a sense that it uses the tragedy of the holocaust to appeal to its readers and he does this well. His use of Pathos is used very well from the very beginning on page 22 and 23 when he describes the level of abuse that Goeths' Jewish maid, Helen, receives from her employer and how Schindler kindly gives her a kiss on the forehead and a bar of chocolate. Another reason that this book is so great is that you have a flawed hero which, to me, always gives the book a better and more realistic feel and these aren't just subtle flaws either, he is a smoker, a drinker a womanizer and a war profiteer. Therefore I feel I can have more of a connection to Oskar Schindler. This is just such a great book with so many elements contributing to it's overall greatness, so many that it is impossible to name every one, but that in itself tells you a lot about the quality of this novel. I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting a classic Hard-to-put-down, captivating read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
The story of Oskar Schindler is one that would not be easily forgotten. This man saved the lives of 1200 Jews and their descendants who would have other wise been killed in the massacre of WWII, but there's a saying, "do onto others, as you would want done to you." Would you help??? Schindler must have had that saying in his mind during the holocaust. Picture yourself in a life-threatening situation. You definitely would love help, and you would probably help also because if you were in that situation that's what everyone wants. Think of all of the bad things that could happen if he helps: he could be arrested, killed, tortured, or even sent to the slave camps. Yet he helped. Although this is a great story of survival, it gets you thinking about all the other people who weren't as lucky to have worked for such a man. Thousands of Jews died in the worst conditions possible and for those who did survive, the faced the memories of the suffering and the violence that happened before their eyes. It was inspiring to see the change of hear that Schindler had when his mindset changed from mocking money to saving lives. Itzhak Stern had a huge part to play in the conversion of Schindler because he was in change of the business end of their factory, so he was the one who did all the employing. Schindler and Stern were like Batman and Robin. Stern worked relentlessly in making sure that, as many people as possible were able to come to the 'place of refuge.' Schindler created a future for so many who thought there was nothing else for them.
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It is by no means an easy thing to rate Schindler's List poorly. It is in all senses of the word an Epic, yet it is a history book. Not a historical fiction, but a text book. Although some prefer this style, I do not. I found it lengthy and nondescript, all unnecessarily so. He, in my opinion, failed to capture the emotion of the Holocaust in an editorial fashion, relying instead on the reader's emotional interpretation. The majority of the novel is background. It is laid between bits of narrative, moving narrative, but then back to history. Every character, great and small, is introduced ad nauseum. Every event and idea introduced is given a fascinatingly boring historical context. Although not very interesting, I understand its necessity (I could never keep by Oberstrumfürers and my Obergruppenfürers straight). I have no problem with history, I love history; I just don't like reading if for fun, especially when the author makes a half-handed approach at making a pseudo-narrative. His attempts at creating an on the dot recreation of the events of the Holocaust goes for four-hundred pages without many of the trademarks of fiction. Schindler's, Goeth's and Stern's characters are static (granted, complex character development and symbolism is rarely a natural byproduct of history). I respect the work put into the novel. I respect the actions depicted. I respect his historical authenticity. I just found it dry. If you, like I, had seen the movie and wondered what the book is like, I must warn you. Cinema has the ability to leave out choice chapters. The cinema evokes painful amounts of emotion. The cinema only takes three hours. Keneally's style, although I appreciate it, leaves a lot to be desired. He does not beat us over the head with disturbing imagery, but doesn't allow for enough, of any kind. See the movie, read a text book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Recently I had talked with a relative of mine who doesn't quite understand why God would tell us that He would protect us if we followed His Commandments 'referring to the Holocaust'. 'Look at all the people who died,' she said. All I could tell her was, 'But look- He sent them Schindler.' There is now a great respect in my heart for this odd hero- an ordinary man who did the right thing. Now, after reading this book and doing some independant research on the subject of Oskar Schindler, 'schindlerjuden' has become a sacred word for me as it is what the Jews rescued by Schindler call themselves. This a moving book with rough material that I think EVERYONE should read. I believe that the faint of heart will mourn as they turn the pages and that the corageous will close their eyes at the horrors in this 'true-story-based' novel.